Comcast MPEG-4 Upgrades & TiVo

We love our Tivo DVRs. We’ve had them basically since the original Series 1 was initially offered. Our current compliment is a Tivo Roamio Plus with two Tivo Mini‘s.

Tivo Roamio Plus 600px

While there have been one or two times that CableCard related matters caused problems, Comcast and Tivo mostly get along. When problems do occur solving them, which typically falls to Comcast, has proven difficult. So, when we received an official notice from Comcast labeled “Equipment Update” we got a little nervous.Tivo Mini Pair

It seems that in many markets, including Houston, Comcast is transitioning their HD channels from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 compression. Consequently, older Tivo devices that are not MPEG-4 capable will be impacted.

Comcast has a page in their support site that details this. The offer the following:

BOLT Series UESs, Roamio Series DVRs, Premiere Series DVRs: Compatible with MPEG4. No change is required.

TiVo HD and TiVo HD XL: DVRs with a TSN prefix of 652 or 658 are now compatible with Comcast’s MPEG-4 format.

TiVo Series3 HD: IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED! These DVRs will lose all HD cable channels.

All of which makes perfect sense. The older HD capable models (some Tivo HD models and all Tivo Series 3) are not MPEG-4 capable.

They advise customers with older models that:

You will need to upgrade to a BOLT Series UES or Roamio Series DVR to continue to receive Comcast HD channels via TiVo. To ease this transition, TiVo has special Roamio upgrade offers for affected customers. Contact TiVo Support to upgrade today.

To be fair, we had a couple of Tivo HD (pictured below) for a few years. That model, released in 2010, was dramatically better than the Comcast provided HD DVR. It was capable of recording four programs simultaneously.

What it did not do at the outset was stream to other devices. That means that we needed two Tivo HD devices to service two HDTVs. Which also meant paying for two subscriptions to the program guide data.

Tivo HD 600px

According to Comcast only some of the Tivo HD devices are MPEG-4 capable. If your Tivo looks like the one pictured immediately above you need to check the model and serial number to ensure that it will keep working once Comcast makes their change in October.

In 2014 we upgraded from the pair of Tivo HD devices to the newer Roamio Plus. Roamio Plus is capable of recording six simultaneous programs. It’s also capable of streaming to the new Tivo Mini devices.

Thus a Roamio Plus and one Tivo Mini replaced the pair of older devices. Now any programs recorded on the Roamio Plus are available to the Mini. A Mini can also grab one of the tuners to watch live TV over the network.

Curiously, the Mini’s maintain a certain independence from the Roamio. For example, a Mini has it’s own login to our Netflix or Amazon Prime accounts. It can tap either of those services without using any resources from the Roamio.

We eventually added a second Mini for use in my home office, which occasionally serves as a guest bedroom.

Tivo Bolt 600px

Tivo’s newest model, known as Bolt, is a curiosity, but not yet enough to compel an upgrade. It has just four tuners (not 6) and accommodates 4K/UHD. It reportedly does a better job with online streaming sources.

It’s industrial design, while stylish, is awkward. It doesn’t stack with other things. It must sit on top.

Tivo are notable for being pretty good at customer service. At least the process of calling to check on this Comcast notice was pretty painless.

They do other things that are annoying. For example, at our house the remote controls for the Roamio and the Mini’s have slightly, aggravatingly, different key layouts. ARGH! I wonder if that’s just a question of when they were purchased?